About Breast Health
Breast care is an important part of a woman’s overall health and well-being. At Greenville OB/GYN, we prioritize the breast health of our patients. We provide a range of services, from yearly screenings to 3D mammography, hereditary cancer counseling and testing. Our staff is also here to help you understand common issues such as breast pain and nipple discharge. Women’s Health—from Head to Soul.
Women's Breast Health
Breast health begins with breast awareness. Being familiar with how your breasts feel makes it easier to detect when there’s a change. Over time, you’ll discover how your breasts change in sensitivity and texture depending on your menstrual cycle, age, and other factors.
Concerns about breast health (lumps, pain, nipple discharge, etc.) are common. Your OB/GYN team will guide you through any questions or concerns, and, based on the situation, your provider will recommend the tests needed for your situation.
A 3D screening mammography is used to detect breast cancer as early as possible. Early detection is key to promoting early management and treatment of breast cancer. The earlier the detection of breast cancer, the better the outcomes.
Mammograms can detect breast cancer years before an individual experiences signs or symptoms such as a breast lump, swelling, or pain. It is recommended that screening mammograms are performed at the annual exam in women starting at the age of 40 years.
3D mammography is also known as tomosynthesis. Tomosynthesis is a new, FDA-approved imaging tool that allows the radiologist to see breast masses and distortions more clearly and accurately. They are able to view the breast one thin slice at a time and in a 3-dimensional space.
This testing detects 40% more invasive breast cancers while reducing false positives by almost 40%. It is recommended for those individuals who are at high risk, including those with a personal or family history of breast cancer, dense breast tissue, or breast implants.
A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast. Diagnostic mammography differs from screening mammography in that it is used to further investigate any abnormalities. It involves more detailed images or magnified views. It is read and reported by a radiologist at the time of the exam, rather than waiting and sending the report to your primary physician.
If an individual presents with a breast lump, pain, or abnormal discharge, or if a screening mammography reveals an abnormality, they will be scheduled for a diagnostic mammogram. Your physician will discuss with you the results and further testing and evaluation, as needed.
Our team offers hereditary breast cancer counseling and testing to help you determine your risk and appropriate preventative steps. If you have a personal or family history of breast or ovarian cancer, your healthcare team may refer you to genetic counseling. Your genetic counselor will collect detailed information from you and help you answer questions, such as if genetic testing is right for you and how to use the information to manage your risk of cancer. Remember that the decision to undergo genetic testing is completely up to you.
If you decide to proceed with testing, it will likely include the assessment for the BRCA1, BRCA2, or other inherited gene mutations that increase your risk for cancer.
Your healthcare team and genetic counselors will help you understand your risk for inheritable cancers such as breast and ovarian cancer. Early detection is fundamental to improving outcomes.
Why do my breasts hurt?
Many women will experience breast pain at some point in their life. Breast tenderness can also occur and fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle, usually right before menstruation. Most often, breast tenderness is totally normal, but other times, it may be a sign of something serious. It is important to perform self-checks and receive an annual breast exam with your gynecologist.
The following reasons may cause your breasts to be sore or painful: hormone changes, breast or chest injury, during pregnancy and breastfeeding, breast infection, side effects from medications, breast cysts, or breast cancer. Talk with your gynecologist if you have concerns about your breasts.
I have nipple discharge. Is this common and should I be concerned?
Nipple discharge is normal during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It is usually due to hormonal changes that our body experiences during these life changes. Nipple discharge usually affects both breasts and can last several years after stopping breastfeeding.
Certain lifestyle factors, such as smoking, can increase chances of having nipple discharge and complications such as infection. Get evaluated by your gynecologist or healthcare provider if you have nipple discharge in only one breast or one opening in the nipple, bloody or clear discharge, or if it appears spontaneously on clothing.
What are the symptoms of breast cancer?
The most common signs and symptoms of breast cancer include the following:
- A new lump or thickening in the breast or armpit
- Thickening or swelling of part of the breast
- Discharge or dimpling in the nipple or breast
- Swelling, redness, or skin irritation in the breast or nipple
- Pain in the breast
- Any change in size or shape of the breast
Some women don’t have any signs or symptoms of breast cancer. That is why it is important to get regular breast exams and mammograms. A mammogram can detect breast cancer even in the absence of symptoms.
Is breast cancer and ovarian cancer related?
It has been suggested that ovarian cancer and breast cancer may be related to a gene mutation (BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations) that is inherited from a blood relative. This is why it is important to discuss your family history with your provider.
It may also be warranted to get genetic testing to help determine your risk. Ovarian cancer may sometimes spread from the ovaries to the breast or other areas of the body. Women who have ovarian cancer are at increased risk of breast cancer.
Should I consider genetic testing to determine my breast cancer risk?
Your gynecologist and healthcare team can help you determine your need for genetic testing and breast cancer risk. With your healthcare team, you should consider genetic testing for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations if you or a family member have or have had:
- A history of cancer of the breast, ovary, or fallopian tube
- Breast cancer diagnosed before the age of 50
- Multiple breast cancers in the family
- Male breast cancer in the family
- Ashkenazi Jewish ethnicity
- Family history of colon cancer, prostate cancer, or pancreatic cancer